A political row has erupted over the welfare of migrant labourers brought back to West Bengal from other states in recent days.
While the BJP has accused the TMC government of practising appeasement politics over the matter, the TMC has hit back at the Central government, accusing it of doing nothing to rescue the stranded people.
State BJP chief Dilip Ghosh alleged the Mamata Banerjee government was working to “bring back people who belong to a particular community”, and accused it of not being bothered about other stranded people.
“There are people who went for medical treatment…people who went on pilgrimage and migrant labourers. No one answers the state government’s helpline number. Recently, we saw people coming from Ajmer. They belong to a particular community. Those who returned from Kerala were also from a particular community. There were few migrant labourers to board the trains which the Centre is running primarily for migrant labourers,” Ghosh claimed.
On Tuesday, a Shramik Special Train carrying more than 1,100 people had arrived in the city from Ajmer in Rajasthan. Many of them had gone to visit the Ajmer Sharif Dargah. Another special train carrying migrant workers from Kerala reached the state’s Murshidabad district on Wednesday.
Lashing out at the BJP, the TMC said labourers across India had been left in the lurch after Prime Minister Narendra Modi abruptly announced the nationwide lockdown in March to contain the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
“Firstly, there was no mode of transportation for migrant labourers who were stranded in various states. Secondly, they had to bear the cost of their train tickets when special trains were arranged for them. The Centre has made their lives uncertain and has failed to extend its helping hand to them,” said Trinamool Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien.
In contrast, the state government made sure these people reached home, and was making efforts to ensure their safety and security. “Instead of maligning our government’s image, the Centre must provide financial assistance to each migrant labourer and ensure doorstep delivery of food for such workers,” O’Brien added.
Congress Lok Sabha leader Adhir Chowdhury also targetted the state government, accusing it of not making enough requests to the Ministry of Railways for trains.
“I came to know from Railway Minister Piyush Goyal that the state government has not made its mind on whether to run a train from Bangalore to West Bengal to bring back migrant labourers. The Railway Ministry is awaiting a response from the state government on how many trains it requires to bring back such workers. But the government has not specified the numbers. If the state government is not serious about bringing them back then it must say so,” said Chowdhury.